Lots of cats in today’s Hili. I leave in two days, and get my Covid PCR test today, so I’ll be on the North Side for a while. Posting will be light, but, as always, I do my best.
Good morning at the end of the work week: Friday, February 25, 2022: National Chocolate Covered Peanut Day (I’ll take cashews or even raisins, thanks). It’s also National Clam Chowder Day (I asseverate again that the New England style sans tomatoes, is the only one to eat), Let’s All Eat Right Day (that depends on what you mean by “right”), and, in Kyoto, Japan, it’s Kitano Baika-sai or “Plum Blossom Festival” at the Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine in Kyoto.
News of the Day:
The latest: Russian troops have entered the city of Kyiv. The NYT adds this:
. . . . officials warned residents to stay indoors and “prepare Molotov cocktails” to defend against advancing Russian forces who had entered a northern district of the city.
Russia on Friday rejected talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and made it clear that it was seeking to topple his democratically elected government, which Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said was steered by “neo-Nazis” and the West.
“We do not see the possibility of recognizing as democratic a government that persecutes and uses methods of genocide against its own people,” Mr. Lavrov said during a news conference in Moscow.
*It’s hard to be enthusiastic about anything given what Ukraine is facing, or to read news about anything else. All I can say is this: Putin has won, and though Russia may be squeezed, it won’t be squeezed enough to vacate Ukraine. This was inevitable given that Biden telegraphed his sanctions in advance and Putin went ahead and invaded. He will not leave if all he faces is the Ukrainian army. The sanctions are not even that tough: Putin’s assets are untouched, and the harshest penalty on Russia’s finances, denying it access to the SWIFT global banking system, is not even on the table. And that denial is precisely what the Ukrainian government wants us to do. (The Wall Street Journal explains why the West is not imposing this hardest of sanctions.)
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was interviewed on NBC news last night, and all he could do is utter pieties, especially when asked, “Well, the sanctions are on and Putin’s ignoring them. Why do you expect them to work.” He had no answer, and the station showed clips of Biden and Kamala Harris maintaining, before the invasion, that sanctions were always meant as a deterrent. Well, it was already too late when they imposed them. Now I worry about other European countries, particularly Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania. But I’m not a pundit; I’m just thinking on paper (or rather on photons on a screen).
Useful links about the war in Europe:
From the NYT, a good historic summary and overview of what Putin’s seeking to do: “The roots of Ukraine’s war: how the crisis developed.”
And if you want to get the latest, scroll down through the NYT’s useful feed of “live updates.”
*Something heartening: Anti-war protestors in St. Petersburg! For more, read the NYT article, “Thousands of Russian protest President V. Putin’s assault on Ukraine. Some chant: ‘No to war!'”
Thousands of protesters took to the streets and squares of Russian cities on Thursday to protest President Vladimir V. Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, only to be met with heavy police presence.
Many Russians, like people across the world, were shocked to wake up and learn that Mr. Putin had ordered a full-scale assault against a country often referred to as a “brotherly nation.” At the protests, many people said they felt depressed and broken by the news of Russian military action.
In Moscow, the police blocked off access to the Pushkinskaya Square in the city center, after opposition activists called people to come there. Police officers dispersed even the smallest groups of protesters, ordering them to clear the area through loudspeakers.
A few hundred people, mostly young, flanked the streets leading to the square, some chanting “No to war!” and unfurling a Ukrainian flag. The police detained more than 600 people in the city, according to OVD Info, a rights group that tallies arrests.
One bit of video:
Look at the size of anti-war protestors in St Petersburg, Russia. Wow pic.twitter.com/dHg9Uwt9RQ
— Ragıp Soylu (@ragipsoylu) February 24, 2022
*More bad news from Texas, which passed an unconstitutional anti-abortion law designed to evade legal restrictions by having the law enforced by private citizens who can sue for $10,000 per incident or person involved in a “pre-heartbeat” abortion. The case is now before the Texas Supreme Court, but a lawyer for the clinics says that as long as the enforcement is specified the way it was, he sees no way around Texas’s law.
In December, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to keep the law in place and allowed only a narrow challenge against the restrictions to proceed. So on Thursday, the Texas Supreme Court, which is entirely controlled by Republican justices, heard arguments on the issue of whether state licensing officials have a role in enforcing the law.
[Reproductive rights lawyer Marc] Hearron said that if the state Supreme Court rules that licensing officials can’t enforce the law in any way, that would “effectively end” their challenge to the law.
He said said that if the court said such officials could enforce the law, they would seek an injunction so the officials couldn’t revoke the licenses of abortion providers who performed abortions after six weeks.
“The best outcome we can get in this case would be a ruling blocking the state licensing officials from discipling doctors and nurses, pharmacists and facilities or revoking those facility licenses for violating” the law, he said.
The attorney representing Texas, Judd E. Stone II, told the judges a that the law is clear that no enforcement “may be taken or threatened by the state.”
But that best outcome still makes abortion after six weeks against the law. The clever but creepy “citizen militia” provision is what’s making this hard. However, it’ll all be moot after the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
*Censorship afoot again in school libraries. From reader Ken:
This saga continues apace, with Oklahoma attorney general John O’Connor considering whether 51 books (including Of Mice and Men and Lord of the Flies) should be removed from school library shelves in response to parental complaints.
These books are being investigated for violating Oklahoma’s “obscenity law.”The list of books, at the bottom of the article, contains some familiar names, including The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I’ve read all but one of these books (the one by Thomas), many of them when I was still in secondary school, and I have no beef with any of them.
Apropos of censorship, Stanley Kurtz has an NYT op-ed called”The battle for the soul of the library”, though it’s title on the front page is: “The ‘woke’ librarian is everywhere, and not helping anyone.” Although Kurtz is a conservative, he’s still standing up for a liberal principle: viewpoint neutrality in education and lack of censorship by school librarians. (Once regarded as the gatekeepers of neutrality, they’re getting more ideological and more ban-ny.):
What in the world is a woke librarian? After all, through venerable proclamations like the Library Bill of Rights, America’s librarians have long pledged to “provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues.” The declaration adds, “Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” This professional stance is known as “neutrality.”
By vowing ideological neutrality in the provision of knowledge, librarians ideally enable readers to develop opinions based on broad consideration of the available alternatives. In contrast, librarians who allow their personal politics to control or curtail the provision of information violate neutrality and betray the public trust. A woke librarian, then, is a contradiction in terms.
Contradiction or not, woke librarians — by which I mean librarians who see it as their duty to promote progressive views on race, policing, sexuality and other issues — are everywhere. Yet the Library Bill of Rights has it right: The library should remain sacred ground — a neutral sphere above the fray — precisely because libraries leaven and inform the fray itself.
. . . On the left, politically one-sided collection building by avowedly nonneutral librarians would amount to book banning by other means, more insidious for being less obvious than parents with pitchforks. As conservatives capture school boards, I expect examples of this backdoor form of book banning to increasingly come to light, exacerbating an already fraught situation. Ultimately, librarians who work to balance a library’s holdings will be far more persuasive advocates for intellectual freedom than those with a political ax to grind.
*Finally, today’s reported Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is 943,312, an increase of 1,868 deaths over yesterday’s figure. The reported world death toll is now 5,949,582 5,927,781, an increase of about 21,900 over yesterday’s total.
Stuff that happened on February 25 include:
- 1336 – Four thousand defenders of Pilenai commit mass suicide rather than be taken captive by the Teutonic Knights.
The original patent:
- 1932 – Hitler, having been stateless for seven years, obtains German citizenship when he is appointed a Brunswick state official by Dietrich Klagges, a fellow Nazi. As a result, Hitler is able to run for Reichspräsident in the 1932 election.
- 1939 – As part of British air raid precautions, the first of 21⁄2 million Anderson shelters is constructed in a garden in Islington, north London.
These were made of corrugated steel and were usually buried. They held four people, and were issued free to all householders who earned less than £5 per week:
- 1956 – In his speech On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences, Nikita Khrushchev, leader of the Soviet Union, denounces Stalin.
Here’s a very short documentary of Khrushchev’s speech, a secret at the time:
- 1986 – People Power Revolution: President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos flees the nation after 20 years of rule; Corazon Aquino becomes the Philippines’ first woman president.
Notables born on this day include:
- 1841 – Pierre-Auguste Renoir, French painter and sculptor (d. 1919)
Renoire: “Julie Manet with Cat” (1887):
- 1873 – Enrico Caruso, Italian-American tenor; the most popular operatic tenor of the early 20th century and the first great recording star. (d. 1921)
Here’s Caruso’s last recording (1920): can you recognize the song?
- 1894 – Meher Baba, Indian spiritual master (d. 1969). The “god incarnate” did not speak a word for the last 44 years of his life. See Wikipedia caption below.
Don’t worry! Be happy! He will help you.
From 10 July 1925 until the end of his life, Meher Baba maintained silence. With his mandali (circle of disciples), he spent long periods in seclusion, during which time he often fasted. He also traveled widely, held public gatherings, and engaged in works of charity with lepers and the poor. He now communicated first through chalk and slate, then by an alphabet board, and later via a repertoire of gestures unique to him. On 1 December 1926, he wrote his last message, and began relying on an alphabet board.
A 26-minute film about Baba’s life. (Do you think he ever said a word when he was completely alone?)
- 1901 – Zeppo Marx, American comedian (the youngest of the Marx Brothers) and theatrical agent (d. 1979)
- 1943 – George Harrison, English singer-songwriter, guitarist and film producer; lead guitarist of The Beatles (d. 2001)
One of his best post-Beatles song by Harrison, and a touching paean for John Lennon, here’s Harrison’s “All Those Years Ago” (1981; with lyrics modified after Lennon was shot). It marked the reuniting of the last three Beatles: Ringo is on drums and Paul does background vocals.
Those who closed their eyes for the last time on February 25 include:
- 1957 – Bugs Moran, American mob boss (b. 1893)
Bugs died in Leavenworth Prison after spending several stints in prison for forgery and robbery.
- 1970 – Mark Rothko, Latvian-American painter and academic (b. 1903)
Rothko and his kitty:
- 1983 – Tennessee Williams, American playwright, and poet (b. 1911)
Tennesee Williams and his cat:
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili muses about evolution:
Hili: Why do humans walk on their hind paws?A: To be able to serve the cats.Hili: How could that have evolved?
Hili: Dlaczego ludzie chodzą na tylnych łapach?Ja: Żeby móc obsługiwać koty.Hili: Ale jak to mogło wyewoluować?
And a formal portrait of Kulka:
More fun with snow from Peter:
Koalas don’t like to hold still when they’re weighed, so some clever people found a way to weigh them when they’re immobile. From reddit:
From Masih. This is what happens to Iran’s political dissidents:
Activist Hossein Ronaghi was a critic of @NYT coverage of Iran. He was abducted by the security forces yesterday and his mother was told “prepare yourself for his execution.”I hope @cliffordlevy @meslackman will cover his disappearance. Dictators everywhere use the same playbook. pic.twitter.com/NNuaz6VDpZ
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) February 24, 2022
From GInger K.:
When your mom lady wants to kiss you because it's Valentine's Day and you're just not into it. pic.twitter.com/XhLXgd8RCz
— Lorenzo The Cat (@LorenzoTheCat) February 14, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. He found the Auschwitz Memorial’s take on the Ukraine situation:
The Auschwitz Memorial statement on the situation in Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/RIXjm4oZas
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) February 24, 2022
Have a look at this huge bacterium. Not only is it nearly an inch long, but, if you read the paper, you’ll see that it’s DNA is encased in a membrane, sort of like a cross between a eukaryote, with a nucleus, and other bacteria whose DNA string floats free in the cell:
Wow! A bacterium that is 2 CENTIMETERS long and 5000x bigger than other microbes! yikes. https://t.co/huBVA6OImB
— Christopher Mah (@echinoblog) February 24, 2022
Matthew explains: “Viktor is a entomological palaeontologist in Germany but his family is still in Ukraine. His reply tweet shows pic of cat which came back and is safe.” Yay!!
— Viktor*Support Ukraine*Baranov 🇪🇺🇩🇪🇺🇦 (@swarmofthought) February 24, 2022
A woman evacuates Kyiv with her kitty:
A woman carries her cat as she walks near Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi railway station in Kyiv in the morning of February 24, 2022 (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images) pic.twitter.com/1cQiOJS53c
— Liza Fokht (@lizafokht) February 24, 2022
The Japanese should make a horror movie out of these events:
the Babbacombe Model Village in Devon is regularly terrorized by cats pic.twitter.com/chx7vHiGfV
— Owl! at the Library 😴🧙♀️ (@SketchesbyBoze) February 21, 2022
Matthew offers some “beauty to palliate the horror” that is going on in Europe:
Green weevil, Phyllobius. A beautiful weevil with green/blue shimmering scales at a magnification of 40:1. Here you can see the compound eye with beautiful scales around it. pic.twitter.com/wqgH7q8zYQ
— Thorben Danke (@sagaOptics) February 23, 2022